The investigation of a fire, once it has been extinguished and is safe, will initially commence with attempting to ascertain the seat (or origin) of the fire, and then investigate the cause of the fire.
There might be more than one seat of fire, and of course the cause of the fire could be attributed to one of accidental, electrical wiring, faulty electrical appliances, and of course some form of deliberate action.
If the cause of a fire is determined to be some form of deliberate action, then of course it will become a criminal investigation conducted by the Police and various supporting agencies.
Arson (or wilful fire raising in Scotland) is the crime of intentionally and maliciously setting fire to buildings, vehicles or other property with intent to cause damage, and possibly endanger life, either inadvertently or deliberately as a consequence.
Intentional acts include the deliberate ignition of combustible materials, possibly at more than one site within the building, and with or without the use of accelerants such as petrol.
The investigation of arson can be very complex and heavily dependent on various factors, and in our opinion it is vital that all of the various investigative and scientific aspects of the investigation into the cause of the fire, and any subsequent scientific examinations and analyses that are performed in consequence, should be fully reviewed and more importantly, understood, to ensure that any argument or proposal presented to a Court during a trial is fully reasoned and rationalised.
Forensic Assessment can assist in all aspects of Arson investigation:
- Examination of the scene if applicable. It is often an unfortunate and inherent feature of arson investigation that by the time the Defence have the opportunity to instruct their own expert the fire scene has been completely renovated or alternatively destroyed / weather damaged such that any meaningful investigation is not possible, and in these cases we have to undertake detailed, thorough and robust assessment of the Prosecution evidence, including statements, photographs / DVD recordings and fire investigation reports.
- A full evaluation of any Forensic examination / analyses in respect of items taken from the scene, and any other items. Laboratory examinations might be undertaken in respect of various issues including the detection of accelerants such as petrol, both at the scene, and on the clothing and footwear of suspects, examination of suspect’s clothing / footwear for evidence of transient flame / heat damage; and comparison of petrol additives between traces from a scene and traces on an individual’s clothing.
- Full evaluation of all fire reports prepared on behalf of the Prosecution, including a critical and fully Professional assessment of the thoroughness & reliability of any conclusions that have been reached as a result of the initial examination and subsequent laboratory examinations where applicable
- Provide accurate information in relation to the potential behaviour and development of fires in specific conditions, and also the provision of expert opinion on the likely development and subsequent outcome of a fire if it had not been brought under control by fire fighters. This issue can be important in cases where the issue is between reckless action and intent.
- Preparation of fully comprehensive and objective expert reports dealing with all aspects of the Arson investigation including the interpretation of the overall findings.
Forensic Assessment also undertake fire scene examinations on behalf of insurance companies.